Accessibility uploads

Creating accessible Microsoft Word Documents

The main factor in making an accessible document from Microsoft Office Word is making sure that there is structure to the document – meaning there is alternative text for all images and headers and that the ‘Styles’ option is used appropriately aiding in document structure.

Below are instructions that must be carried out in order for a word document to be accessible.

  1. Properly format all text used as section headings. Utilize styles in Word such as “Heading 1″, “Heading 2″, etc. This allows screen readers to create an outline of the document. Using bold text to indicate headings is not sufficient to create an accessible document.
  2. Provide alternative text equivalent for all images and graphs. This can be done through providing text captions for images or by right clicking on the image and selecting the “Format Object” or “Format Picture” dialog boxes. For Word 2007 right click on the image and select “Size” and then the “Alt” tab to type in the alternative text.
  3. For data tables, identify row and column headers. Make sure all column and row headers are clearly identifiable. Make headers bold or in a larger font. This helps viewers to distinguish headers from the actual information in the table. Alternatively create a new style called “Row heading” to help identify the text.
  4. Do not use text boxes. Unfortunately, when positioning a text box to reproduce a nice visual layout, a screen reader will often render the box to appear in between two unrelated paragraphs thus confusing the user with what appears to be jumbled text.
  5. Ensure that hyperlinked text is descriptive of what the link is and where it goes to. Hyperlinked text such as “click here” can be confusing for people who use screen readers as they do not describe where they are clicking to.
  6. Ensure that documents that use colour are understandable for people who cannot perceive shades and tones. Reds and greens used together for example can be impossible to read for those users that are colourblind. And if color is used, make sure there is a high contrast between background colors and text colors.
  7. Use the clearest and simplest language appropriate for a document’s content. If text appears in the Word file, make sure it is in the most concise and simplest language possible.

For further information on creating accessible documents visit theMicrosoft Office Accessibility Guide.

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Creating accessible Microsoft Excel Documents

In the same way that creating structure in a Word document makes the text more accessible via such tools as a screenreader, so too does creating structure in an Excel document.

As styles are not available to use, other steps must be taken into account when creating a new document to make it as accessible to users as possible.

  1. Do not create blank rows or tables for decorative purposes. Although they may be visually appealing to some as a way of separating content, a screen reader will not respond well to blank space.
  2. Name each Row and Column heading by using bold or larger text.  Alternatively you can “Name”  a range in a spreadsheet by highlighting the section you want to define and selecting “Name a range” for Excel 2007 and for previous versions “Name” and then > “Define”.  The name you have defined will then be displayed near the “Formula” bar for readers to translate. Try and make the names as descriptive and explanatory as possible.
  3. If you have multiple worksheets make a note of it somewhere on the first sheet. A reader may not pick up that there are multiple pages unless it is stated somewhere.

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Creating accessible Microsoft Powerpoint Documents

As PowerPoint slides are often made up of complicated images and graphics, screen readers need to be able to have helpful descriptions of what is being shown in the presentation.

The best slide layout to use for accessibility is the “Title only” slide. This will allow the reader to read the title text as a heading.  If an image or chart is positioned below the title the reader will generally skip this information as blank unless alternative text has been specified.

For complex charts however there is often not enough area to describe the purpose and results of a chart so another area to describe the image is needed.  This is where the “Notes” page of a slide can be used. Put in as much information as needed to correctly describe the image or chart and the screenreader will translate this to the user.

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